How to Upsell and Cross-Sell Customers… the Right Way!

Figuring out how (and when) to upsell or cross-sell to your customers can be tricky. We totally get it!

Why not take a different approach and think about it from this perspective…

Your goal is to maximize the profit you make on each sale, right? And you already know that selling to existing customers is much easier than acquiring new customers.

So, you need a way to encourage customers to spend more every time they make a purchase.

The way we see it, you could either encourage them to purchase a more premium product (upselling) or purchase related products that would add value to their order (cross-selling).

Simple, right?

Here, we’ll dig deeper into how you can send better upsell and cross-sell emails that bring in more sales, help you maximize profits, and encourage customers to spend more than they planned!

Ambitious? Yes. Difficult? Not at all!

What’s the Difference Between Upselling and Cross-Selling?

Upselling and cross-selling have clear benefits for companies – regardless of their industry, business model, or target audience. Specifically, they allow businesses to generate more revenue on each sale.

So, before we get into how this all fits into your email marketing strategy, let’s take a step back and understand what upselling and cross-selling is and how they’re different from one another.

What is upselling?

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a prospective customer visits your online shoe store looking for a great pair of sneakers. You’d want them to buy the most expensive sneakers from you… for obvious reasons!

By maximizing the money you make on each sale, you’ll be able to generate more revenue without doing any extra work. Makes sense, right?

This is how upselling works.

In other words, you persuade existing customers to buy a more expensive product or service so that you’re able to generate more revenue from the sale.

More money per sale, that’s the goal!

Here’s another example:

Think about the last time you ordered a burger and fries at a fast food joint and the guy behind the counter asked you if you want it super-sized. That’s another slick real-world example of upselling!

The best thing about this sales technique? It’s as simple as it sounds!

Businesses make upsell offers all the time to bump up their bottom line and you can do the same by implementing the same techniques in your email marketing strategy – more on this later!

What is cross-selling?

Similar to upselling, cross-selling is another sales strategy that essentially results in the same end goal — more revenue. The only difference is that, with cross-selling, you offer additional products that would add value to the primary product the customer intends on purchasing.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say a prospective customer navigates to your online shoe store and adds a really nice pair of red sneakers to their cart.

On the checkout page, your website suggests that they should also buy matching socks to go with the shoes. The customer thinks that’s a great idea and immediately adds the pair of socks to their shopping cart.

They’re thrilled to have a new pair of socks to go with their new sneakers and you just made more money on a sale. It’s a double win!

The key to good cross-selling is to offer more value to your customers and help them understand how they can benefit from it. Online businesses – especially e-commerce stores – do this all the time to maximize the profits they generate off each sale.

Back to the fast food example:

If the counter attendant had instead asked you if you wanted a drink with your burger and fries, they’d be cross-selling!

Upselling vs cross-selling

Upselling is all about getting customers to buy a premium, upgraded, or pricier version of the same product of service. This is why when a customer buys the premium pair of sneakers from your online store (i.e. a more expensive product), you’re upselling.

Whereas cross-selling is where the additional product or service complements the purchased item. So, when you suggest that they should buy matching socks with their red sneakers, you’re cross-selling.

Either way, you’re able to increase the size of each transaction while delivering more value to your customers.

So, Why Should You Use Upselling and Cross-selling to Maximize Your Revenue?

For starters, you don’t have to find new customers to sell your stuff to.

And we all know that it’s a lot easier to sell to an existing customer than someone new. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Yikes!

Plus, once you make a sale, you can use their contact information (like their email address) to stay in touch. As a savvy digital marketer, you should already have an email list of your customers that you can reach out to.

Speaking of which, sending out upsell and cross-sell emails to customers is a great way to boost sales. So, let’s step through some of the ways you can improve your upsell and cross-sell emails.

4 Tips for Sending Better Upsell and Cross-Sell Emails

Writing great upsell and cross-sell emails isn’t simple … but it’s not rocket science either. Below, you’ll find actionable tips that will help you bring in more bucks off each sale!

#1 Segment Your Email List

If you’re already upselling or cross-selling through your website, why not take a more targeted approach with email marketing?

The first step is to identify what they really want. Start by doing some research into who your customers are and classify them into different groups, or segments.

The goal of segmenting your email list is to learn more about the products or services they already use or have expressed interest in.

While tagging your email list based on their preferences might seem difficult, you should know it’s actually pretty easy. Check out this quick article on segmentation and start tagging your email list in a few easy steps.

You can then use this information to create tailored email messages and upsell or cross-sell offers that are targeted specifically towards your prospective customers.

Check out this cross-sell email from Harry’s:

See how they’re cross-selling their new foaming shave gel and after shave moisturizer?

It encourages existing customers (likely those who’ve bought other shaving products) to try out the new shave gel and moisturizer.

With Sendlane’s enhanced behavior tracking feature, Beacon, you’re able to track user interactions from the moment customers land on your site to when they make a purchase.

This makes it easy to create segments for upsell and cross-sell emails. Pretty cool, right?

#2: Determine the Right Time to Send Upsell and Cross-Sell Emails

Here’s the deal: your email message is important but so is timing.

Upselling or cross-selling through email marketing usually means you’ll have to get a little creative. You can’t just send out mass upsell emails and hope that recipients will be in the mindset to buy from you.

Here are a few actionable tips to get you started with a step in the right direction:

First of all, make sure your email content is relevant and aligns with your customers’ recent purchases.

In other words don’t upsell luxury cars to college students and don’t cross-sell car tires with speed boat purchases. Also, if a customer purchases golf clubs, cross-sell them golf balls immediately after the purchase – not a few months later.

You get the idea.

And the best part? You can make perfectly targeted product recommendations automatically with site tracking in just a few clicks!

Here’s another quick tip for you, Keep your emails specific and tailored to your customers’ needs and interests.

By factoring in past purchase history, you’ll be able to let customers know that you understand their needs better than anybody else. And you’ll be able to make relevant offers.

Not sure how to get started? Sendlane’s advanced multivariable segmentation feature allows you to segment your email list based on past purchases on autopilot!

Here’s how Grammarly does it:

The email message reminds customers that they’ve completed one whole year and highlights their progress. It then makes the most of this opportunity to upsell them a premium version of their service which would give them access to advanced features.

And here’s a cross-sell example from Dollar Shave Club:

Notice how this email is actually an order confirmation email? It makes for a great opportunity to cross-sell products that would add value to the primary order.

To take things a step further, check out Sendlane’s AI-based machine learning open predictability feature which allows you to send out emails at the best possible time.

#3: Create High-Converting CTAs

Since you’ll most likely be making upsell or cross-sell offers in conjunction with an order confirmation email or a reminder email, it’s important to pay attention to your CTA. After all, you don’t want recipients to overlook it.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • The CTA should be prominently displayed in your email to maximize its click-through rate. You might even consider making it the primary CTA in your email message.
  • Make sure not to bury your CTA button between images and walls of text. Instead, position it in a way that it stands out from the rest of the email body.
  • Your CTA text should clearly let recipients know what the need to do next or what will happen when they click the button. For example, Select a premium plan or Shop Now!.

Here’s how ASICS does it:

Notice how they’ve made ‘Continue Shopping’ the primary CTA right before their cross-sell offers?

Check out another example from Zapier:

The CTA clearly explains what the recipient needs to do to get started with their upsell offer i.e. select a premium plan.

It’s simple and to the point!

For even more quick tips on how to create high-converting CTAs, check out our guide on How to Improve Your Click Rate With Irresistible CTAs.

#4: Make a Compelling Offer

The key to writing good upsell and cross-sell emails is to not be too pushy or salesy with your offer.

Instead, take a more laid back approach to convince recipients to act on your conversion goal.

Here are some quick tips for making enticing upsell offers:

  • Educate customers about product features or advanced functionality available with the premium product.
  • Explain how the premium version offers more value. For example: Is it more cost-effective in the long-run? Does it come with additional resources the customer would be interested in?
  • Focus on communicating the benefits of opting for the premium offering.

Take a look at this example from Evernote:

The email features a simple but visually rich layout to make a truly compelling offer.

And if you’re cross-selling, use these tips to get started:

  • Share reviews and testimonials from other customers or clients. Communicate the benefits of your product through the words of others. (On a side note, if that’s not persuasive enough then I don’t know what is!)
  • Use wording that incites emotion and motivates customers to take action.
  • Identify their pain points and show them how the additional products add value to the primary product. For example, if you offer online courses and cross-sell one-on-one coaching sessions, explain why they should opt for the coaching sessions.

In other words, instead of singing a breathless paean about your products’ many features, craft a compelling email message that explains how customers can benefit from upgrading to the more premium offering or purchasing a related product.

Of course, you also want to pay attention to your email’s layout.

Remember to add life to your emails by using visual elements like images, photos, illustrations, GIFs, and infographics.

Here’s an example from Moo that ticks all the boxes:

See how they’ve included a photo of their rounded corner business cards to help recipients visualize their product?

Finally, making upsell or cross-sell offers towards the end of your email message gives you an opportunity to nudge the recipient towards your goal. So, by the time they get to the upsell or cross-sell offer, they’ll be in a better position to make an informed buying decision.

Want Even More Ideas?

The great thing about upselling and cross-selling is that all sorts of businesses can benefit from it.

Whether you own an online music store, run an event management business, or sell software subscriptions, you can use upselling and cross-selling in your email marketing strategy to increase order sizes and generate more revenue.

Let’s quickly recap the key tips you need to follow to upsell and cross-sell to your customers:

  • Segment your email list to make sure you’re making relevant offers.
  • Determine the best time to send upsell and cross-sell emails. For example, as part of the order confirmation email, after a milestone, or after checkout.
  • Create prominent CTAs so that your customers know what to do next.
  • Follow best practices and add visuals to make your upsell and cross-sell offers more compelling.

Do you agree that upselling or cross-selling through email marketing delivers value to your recipients? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Caitlin Hutchinson

Caitlin Hutchinson

A native of San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative and engaging marketing content. She is primarily responsible for overseeing the development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels as well as maintaining an online presence of Sendlane's team culture. She has enjoyed being a part of a powerhouse team where she has had the opportunity to wear a variety of hats and take her knowledge and creativity to the next level. When not focusing on increasing Sendlane's online presence you'll find Caitlin playing music on her guitar or piano and spending time with her Husband and their rescue dog, Piper.
Caitlin Hutchinson